Brick-Faced Frame Houses

I was captivated recently by a thread on the Brownstoner forum, on which a homeowner had inquired about the possibility of converting a frame house to brick. Now, I’m not an architect, so I can’t speak for the feasibility of this, and in any case I certainly don’t advocate for it. As I hope I’ve established so far, frame house are a precious and unique part of Brooklyn’s past that don’t receive nearly as much appreciation as they deserve. But looking back throughout history, perhaps this homeowner’s dream isn’t so ludicrous after all. Many of New York’s early, Federal-era rowhouses are in fact built of wood but have brick fronts.

 Thanks to its corner location, an obvious case-in-point is one of my favorite buildings in Brooklyn Heights: No. 66 Hicks Street (shown above), which houses Jack-the-Horse Tavern. The Hicks Street facade is brick but on Middagh Street it’s clapboard. A fire insurance map from 1898 clearly shows that the main house is frame (as indicated in yellow) and that the brick (shown in pink) is only the front facing.

Bear in mind that the frame houses in Brooklyn Heights were built long before this map was drawn in 1898, as their construction in this neighborhood was outlawed as early as 1852. Hicks Street was one of the earliest streets in the neighborhood to develop, and No. 66 likely dates at least as early as the 1820s.

The 1898 map (see an expanded version HERE) actually depicts several brick-faced wooden houses scattered all over the Heights, most of which are now gone. One survives just across the street, at 57 Hicks Street, though this house is now covered in stucco and is today virtually unrecognizable as a wooden house (alas, those darn lovely trees get in the way of so many photos):

Jumping across the river for a moment (I know, breaking the rules), another great example of a house from this period is 57 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. I wanted to include this one because the Google Street View image is pretty special. It captured a moment during which the two-story building next door was being demolished, allowing us a peek underneath.

Take a look at the 1898 map for this house, and the sheer number of brick-faced wooden houses further down Sullivan Street!